Embark on a Cosmic Odyssey with These 25 Must-See Sci-Fi Films

The top science-fiction movies are riddled with themes beyond our comprehension, conjuring up futuristic scenarios that inevitably influence our technological advancements. In an online session, 25 such movies were highlighted.

1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams
Image Credit: United Artists.

This remake paints a better picture of the novel than the original adaptation. Unbeknownst to society, perfect human duplicates were beginning to replace their originals, with the only difference being a lack of empathy and humanity. Benell (Donald Sutherland) initially dismissed the strange mood of a friend's husband as marital issues. But when similar complaints emerged, he and some friends had to work against time to reverse the invasion. A perfect Sci-fi representation of the distrust and malaise of the post-Nixon era.

2. Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Benedict Wong
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

I can understand going to the moon. But the sun? As if the heat on Earth isn't scorchy enough. The mission to reignite a dying sun will always be risky, especially when it was disastrously attempted seven years earlier. But isn't that the essence of science? Risky business. And the fiction side of it makes an entertainment of the treachery of human instinct (more like human drive to save the Earth) as the crew of ‘messiahs' work to reverse the awry turn that now endangers their lives.

3. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Twelve Monkeys, Bruce Willis
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The combined themes of time travel, disease outbreak, and a pivotal future make for some oddity and complexity beyond average comprehension. But the movie's style of portraying Cole's (Bruce Willis) heroism in helping the future from the past while in the present lends good credence to the director's artistry. However, the titular monkeys are not literal, and the virus was not from animals. It begs the question of where the popular synonymy of virus and monkey (during epidemics) comes from.

4. Silent Running (1972)

Silent Running 1972 Bruce Dern
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Another savior in the role of Freeman Lowell comes to the rescue. This time it's the environment. Gathering and maintaining the vegetative spoils of the Earth's extinction in space, Lowell sacrifices everything, including his life, to preserve a representative sample of plant specimens for reforestation. Why does that spaceship remind one of the biblical Noah's ark (for purpose, not architecture)? The film gives a powerful but subtle environmental warning.

5. Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin 2013 Studiocanal 2
Image Credit: Studiocanal.

“Under the Skin” is a divisive movie with an alien disguised as a female luring unsuspecting males in Glasgow. Accompanied by a mysterious motorcyclist, she submerges her victims in a tar-dark world. There are too many unanswered questions with no straight-forward conventional narrative. The movie doesn't aim to please the masses; it challenges viewers with abstract storytelling, emphasizing its underlying themes. It offers a unique and thought-provoking experience, inviting interpretation of its meaning and symbolism.

6. Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Kindly ignore the hard science encapsulated in this movie. In simple terms, the story is of a Joe Cooper saddled with searching for a new home for Earth's inhabitants as it will become unlivable. However, for every hour in the prospective galaxy, 23 years have passed on Earth. Wading through failed theoretical principles, lies, and personal interests that threaten the mission, Cooper combines with his scientist daughter from the other side through Morse code to solve the equation that fulfills the mission.

7. Moon (2009)

Moon (2009), Sam Rockwell
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

Designed to expire as they approach the expiration of their three-year contract at the automated space facility, one of the cloned Sam Bells must survive the sinister plot by their company to reduce the cost of labor as they harness alternative fuel from lunar soil. This contrivance takes a swab at corporations' unethical practices for financial gains without pointing fingers. But if it took one of the clones to expose the truth, where was the original Sam Bells?

8. Arrival (2016)

Arrival Amy Adams
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The movie excites me, given my linguistic background, as it delves into the science of language. It's like witnessing a mother attempting to understand her baby's needs by testing various approaches. Imagine the frustration she experiences when her assumptions don't work. Now, picture this scenario in a science fiction context, where Linguist Louise Banks is tasked with deciphering palindromic phrases represented in circular symbols by alien beings to help humanity. 

9. Inception (2010)

Inception Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The vastness of science fiction is further stretched in this dream tech movie that sets up the human subconsciousness as a physical environment. It sets aside the traditional spiritual method of mind reading. It explores the scientific approach to extracting specific information from or implanting an idea in the subconscious mind. Leonardo Dicaprio is vital in harnessing this complex phenomenon to achieve a simple thievery.

10. The Thing (2011)

The Thing, Joel Edgerton
Image Credit: Universal Studios.

An extraterrestrial being that can transform into anyone means the team of scientists that discovered it cannot trust themselves. They may have left it alone. But if they did, we wouldn't have the best sci-fi pulled off the pages of the novel Who Goes There. Who survives the onslaught depends a little less on quarantine and more on chance.

11. War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

As adapted by Steven Spielberg, War of the Worlds successfully captures the suspense and paranoia of the novel it was adapted from while dramatically modernizing the action and effects for contemporary audiences. Morgan Freeman tells us how an alien invasion disrupts the quality time Ray Ferrier planned to have with his family. The plan changed to save his loved ones. 

12. Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Movie
Image Credit: Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

The space opera film borrows heavily from Star Wars mythos while setting new stylistic and narrative standards, predicting a promising blockbuster future for the brand. The plot centers on a gang of rebels who team up to steal the Death Star's blueprints—the Galactic Empire's ultimate weapon. It describes the Rebel Alliance's first real triumph over the Empire, which was initially alluded to in the Star Wars opening crawl.

13. Dune (2021)

Dune, Rebecca Ferguson, Timothée Chalamet
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The war over natural resources does not happen on planet Earth alone, as the inhabitants of the desert planet, Arrakis, know all too well. Melange is a natural resource that improves vitality and awareness. And control of it is paramount to controlling the harsh planet. The fictional betrayals within the forces clashing for this valuable substance are just as much a replica of Earth's chaotic reality.

14. Wall-E (2008)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Talk about romance being the core of sci-fi, and you've got it in Wall-E. Only this time, the love affair is between two machines, and their robot-fling could alter the fate of mankind. The film also carries an underlying message about environmental issues and how humanity mistreats both the environment and each other. This aspect is presented in an experimental and somewhat satirical way, particularly aimed at younger audiences. However, the movie's themes and execution also resonate with adult viewers, making it enjoyable for a wider audience.

15. Dark Star (1974)

Dark Star (1974) Cal Kuniholm, Brian Narelle, Dan O'Bannon
Image Credit: Bryanston Distributing Company.

The portrayal of human eccentricity makes this movie attractive. It takes a ridiculous peek at the difficulties faced by a group of inept astronauts twenty years into their mission to destroy rogue planets that might threaten the future annexation of other worlds.

16. Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

How do you prove yourself innocent of a crime you have been accused you ‘will' commit? Ask Tom Cruise as John Anderton with this soothsayer technology that promises to ‘proactively' reduce crime. However, when these pre-crime fighters turn on their chief due to a crime he will commit, Anderton must keep himself free to prove his innocence. The nature of political and judicial processes in a civilization with modern technology and the rights to privacy in a world dominated by media are among the subjects tackled by the movie.

17. Avatar (2009)

Avatar Sam Worthington
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Humans have become alien invaders in a distinctive world of giant floating rock formations, blue-green fauna, and bioluminescent flora. Jake, a spy for the aliens but now initiated as a Pandoran citizen, is the key to either the aliens' mission's success or Pandora's survival. Knowing where his loyalty lies shouldn't be difficult with his newfound love (kinship and romance).

18. Dredd (2012)

Dredd Lena Headey
Image Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors.

Dredd does a great job of preserving the gritty mood of its source material. It is driven by dramatic violence and amazing visual effects, based on self-satire and deadpan wit. Criminals rule the streets in the vast metropolis of Mega City One. A dreaded citizen and a psychic assistant must combine to takedown a psycho leader, Ma-Ma.

19. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of The Galaxy Chris Pratt Dave Bautista Bradley Cooper Zoe Saldana Vin Diesel Groot Gamora Rocket Racoon Drax Star Lord
Image Credit: Marvel Studio.

The director's ingenuity in breathing comic life into the cosmic character paid off in this sci-fi comedy. The talking tree and the raccoon for a bounty hunter combined with the script are the hilarity that takes your attention from the science as you watch this group of guardians defend the only home they know.

20. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 Ryan Gosling
Image Credit: Alcon Entertainment, LLC.

The chase against bioengineered humans continued in full force from 30 years ago. K is the police charged with the task of retiring all rogue replicants. But after stumbling over the remains of a deceased female replicant who passed while giving birth, his responsibility ultimately becomes one of a family reunion.

21. Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

In theory, cloned dinosaurs in a wildlife park will always make for a profitable enterprise. But theory does not usually factor in the risk of rival sabotage that collapses this dino-spectacle. A practical reminder that the downsides of chaos theory are too unpredictable and uncontrollable for man's gamble with nature. Spielberg conjured the monsters of Micheal Critchton's novel with a surprisingly accurate outlook that left me petrified as a kid.

22. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix Keanu Reeves Laurence Fishburne Carrie-Anne Moss
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that the world is a computer simulation called the Matrix and that he and the rest of humanity are being harvested as fuel for sentient robots. But as he gains knowledge of this illusion, he also learns how to subvert it by defying the rules of physics, cracking the code, and downloading kung-fu movements into his head. Being “The One,” can he free humankind? After his bullet dodging skills, Morpheus believed. After Trinity's kiss, Neo believed. At what point in the movie will you believe?

23. Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko Jake Gyllenhaal
Image Credit: Newmarket Films.

One exceptional but jaded teen will ride Time's Arrow in a humorous, emotional, and distinctly mind-bending voyage through suburban America. After surviving a rare accident, Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts questioning what being alive means. He soon falls in love and discovers cosmic mysteries that give him the seductive ability to change time and fate. Love conquers all things, right?

24. A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place Emily Blunt
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

They seek you out if they hear you. A family must remain still to safely elude a monster that is very sound-sensitive. Evelyn and Lee must keep their kids safe while anxiously looking for a way to fight back because they are aware that even the slightest whisper or footstep can result in death. With a brutally clever creature feature that is both unique and terrifying, the movie deftly plays on viewers' primal fears.

25. Gattaca (2018)

Gattaca Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Gattaca is an interesting movie about a future where genetics rules all. Your genetics decide your job, your life, your everything. So one man decides to cheat the system and lie about his genetics to see how the upper class lives.

Source: Reddit. 

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.